The Health Secretary has pledged to help people suffering back problems in a bid to get them back into work.

Steve Barclay suggested that exercise videos to do at home are among a range of “digital therapeutics” that could benefit people who are classed as economically inactive.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people economically inactive because of long-term sickness has risen to more than 2.5 million, an increase of over 400,000 since the start of the Covid pandemic.

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions play a big role, affecting joints, bones and muscles and sometimes associated tissues such as nerves.

Mr Barclay said: “More than one in five people who are economically inactive have a musculoskeletal condition.

“With the right care and support, many of them could rejoin the workforce.

“That would benefit both them and the economy, as well as helping to ease pressure on the NHS.

“Our ground-breaking Major Conditions Strategy will help improve the quality of life for people living with one or more of the six conditions that lie behind most of the ill health in England. Managing musculoskeletal problems is a big part of that strategy.

“Whether it’s through technological innovations that empower people to better manage symptoms around the clock without the need for a GP referral, locally-led employment partnerships, like Universal Support, supporting people to return to or remain in work or good quality occupational health provision, our strategy has the potential to drive real change.

Steve Barclay
The Health Secretary has announced new support measures (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“Many of those currently out of work due to a health condition would love to find rewarding and fulfilling employment.

“By providing individualised care and support, alongside employment initiatives being delivered in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions, we can help them to do that.”

Some parts of the NHS offer exercise programmes via apps for people with problem joints to do at home.

Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust’s physiotherapy department has brought in a web-based and mobile application exercise prescription programme called Physitrack.

Patients are seen in the fracture clinic and are given an exercise programme to do at home, with their adherence recorded as well as how well they think it worked.

Results suggest that around 93% of patients found the videos either “fairly useful” or “very useful”.

Other initiatives include setting up “MSK community hubs” in places such as local leisure centres, where people can attend classes and get treatment without seeing a doctor.

The Daily Telegraph also reported earlier this year that job coaches are set to be stationed at GP surgeries as part of plans to get unemployed over-50s back to work.